Just one in 10 expert witnesses say they are paid on time by solicitors who have commissioned them. A survey of 154 members of the Expert Witness Institute found late payment is an increasing problem with law firms. Experts were generally happy with the quality of instructions from solicitors, with 68% agreeing that most are good and know what they are doing. However, some reported they were ‘slipshod’ and appeared to make mistakes due to being under increasing strain.
More than half (54%) reported having been pressured to change a report, while just 10% said they were paid on time – 42% said they were paid ‘very late and only after a lot of chasing’.
Just 19% said the solicitors always or usually let them know the outcome of the case – which is often linked to when they will eventually be paid.
Sir Anthony Hooper, chair of the EWI, said: ‘Experts and solicitors must work together. The survey shows that there is room for improvement in the manner in which solicitors treat their expert witnesses.’
Half of expert witnesses surveyed said the number of instructions they receive has increased in the last year, with one-third seeing their fees rise.
Around 15% of them had been involved in what is known as hot tubbing, where experts give evidence concurrently. This method is designed to assist the courts and reduce costs and has been strongly backed by Lord Justice Jackson, who led a review of costs in civil litigation. Those who had gone through hot tubbing reported that it assisted the court to determine disputed issues of expert evidence, reduced the length of the trial and saved costs.
Hooper said the early signs of hot tubbing were ‘encouraging’ and insisted members were open to change in the way expert evidence is given for the benefit of the justice system.